Ashley Takes on Europe 2012: BERLIN

STOP #2: Berlin

A little joke to get started off on Germany…

I left Amsterdam by train pretty early in the morning and off to Germany I went! The train was nice actually, I am pretty sure it promised me wifi, but that definitely was not the case, so luckily I had downloaded a lot of Trip Advisor City Guides (no wifi necessary and HIGHLY recommend, travelers). I then met a few couples who sat next to me, since I had picked a seat with a table. They knew English but were Dutch and visiting Berlin for a long weekend and SUPER nice. We chatted about all sorts of things and they helped me find my platform once I got to the large station in Berlin. Off I went! Alexanderplatz is pretty much “city center” though Berlin is HUGE. I’d have to say I would go back to Berlin because there was so much I didn’t get to do, but I feel I made good use of my time spent when I was there.

City motto (no lie): Berlin is Poor But Sexy.

I know it sounds crazy, and it isn’t for all, but I used Couchsurfing.org and that is where I met my host for Berlin. An American woman, married to a German and they just moved there not too long ago and had two adorable little girls! Jane messaged me a pointer about finding a Berlin host and we just hit it off via email, added each other on facebook and of course since FB pretty much exploits one’s personality we felt an instant connection and off I went to Jane’s house, she met me at the station and I went to her house to put the bags down and met her family.

Jane and I havin’ a brewski…or 4 (post East Side Gallery Walk)

Cutest girls, what a cool mom: whip cream straight from can…into mouth for breakfast!

Favorite things I did in Berlin and other Crazy Stuff:

  • Did you know Beer is super cheap in Berlin? I paid a Euro five for a beer in a gas station. Wait-it gets better-you can walk around with it in the city, outside, etc.

  • You can also urinate in public in Berlin. Totally legal. Jane tried to get me to pee on part of the Berlin wall when we were walking around at night…I passed.

  • BUT I did pay a Euro to pee in a public restroom at the train station (I had to go so bad) and it is not uncommon for restrooms to charge or leave a plate for a donation? outside. I guess when you have so many people visiting you have to make some kind of profit money for the facilities
  • Taxi cabs are Benz’. Enough said.
  • The train system in Berlin (and Germany really) is efficient and smart (like the Germans, ha!) Quite intricate, but colored and numbered with announcements of next stops

  • Confession: I never once paid for a ride around the city (big tickets in and out of Berlin yes) but never a subway. It is as if no one was around to check it nor were there enough machines to purchase them for the next punctual train…in my opinion
  • Berlin is known for their street art-literally murals are everywhere

  • Definitely do a Fat Tire Bike tour here (offered in many cities, but there is too much history here to not do a bike tour)

Ciaran-pretty sure I just butchered the spelling of his name, but this Irish fellow was an AWESOME tour guide, felt like I was back in World History with Mr. Yowell (and failing, because I forgot A LOT of stuff).

  • Berlin is also known for being super liberal and in debt. And I could see why, there’s been a lot of rebuilding and new building, which I witnessed everywhere. And I believe they have one of the first (if not THE first) openly gay Mayor

I actually added Berlin as a stop just a week or two before I left because I wanted to break up the trip from Amsterdam to Prague, and I am so glad I did. I actually ended up staying longer than I thought too. Sadly I began to really come down with something here, but mainly due to my lack of sleep in Amsterdam then my added drinking AND not sleeping much in Berlin…bad idea jeans.

Naturally, I powered through.

Crossfit City Limits (my gym) Salute! (We do this pose and post on fb when traveling, don’t ask me why, but it was kinda fun, so I have a pose of me in every city doing this).

Randomly awesome: I was lost and looking for where the Bike Tour met and saw a guy with a Tx Hat. I said “Hey are ya’ll looking for the Fat Tire bike tours?” Indeed they were. Second question “Did you go to UT?” Yep, there was a couple and another guy. The couple lived in Dallas now, but lived in Austin previously and the gentleman from Austin, James worked for HomeAway and was in Germany for work. How random is that? He lived in Hyde Park and had a lab too. I swear this world gets smaller and smaller. We did the tour, chatted and I was lucky enough to hang with them, drink, have dinner and have more drinks with them as it was the opening weekend of Oktoberfest and the Hofbrau Haus was a hoppin’.

This is James, rando from Austin, after the Fat Tire bike tour. The guy behind him is the scary drunk German who approached us-I had to get a photo. James could translate this guy’s drunken English with a German accent quite well. I was impressed. And the Germans get crazy for Oktoberfest. haha

Here are some photos from the Bike Tour I did. It was about 4hrs and we stopped for lunch and of course had a beer and some German sausage. A front blew in while on the tour and I am SO thanksful Jane told me to pack jeans in my bag because I was freezing my a$s off.

I cannot remember the name of this church, but it is super old-and the TV tower, which I think dates to the 60s is next to it. Ironic some.

You see a lot of old and new in Berlin mixed together (or shall I say rebuilt and new)

Fun fact: Hitler would take statues down from many of the buildings, knowing they were about to be bombed, and he put them in the river. After the war he put them back and that’s why so many of them on top of buildings are a different color (much darker) though made of same material.

My bike at the Parliament. If you look closely you can go up in the top glass dome.

Holocaust Memorial. Pretty sad, but powerful place.

What is left of the Berlin wall.

Brandenburg Gates at night (didn’t take this while on tour, but my first night walking around with Jane).

Here are some of my snapshots from the East Side Gallery. I took some at night when I got there with Jane again, while walking around and drinking. And then I took a few before I left my last day while I was capturing some street art and what not.

Me, some guy from Austria and a classy beer in hand.

Sadly a lot of the awesome murals do have some graffiti over the work, but there was definitely some interesting work.

This was painted on the wall I think close to the station, can’t remember exactly…

This place was supposedly the best burger place. I am going to say while it wasn’t bad, it was definitely no Hopdoddy’s. Fo’ sho. Burgers: Berlin 0 Austin 1

PS- STILL have not gone back since I have been back, who wants to go with me?

Overall, I loved Berlin. I think I could definitely go back for a four days and STILL not see the same things I saw before, though the bike tour was the nice highlight of brevity and history and sites all rolled into one…oh and entertaining too.

Now, let’s talk grub.

While I have a German heritage, sausage, potatoes, cabbage and pretzels are not my favorite exactly. Here are some of the things I (and my new found Tx friends) tried at Augustiner. All was delish.

Clockwise from top. Goulash, Pork knuckle, cheese plate, brat wurst <–mine

And a toast, mine of course is the light one. <—sissy.

A Berlin staple-Currywurst. Umm apparently I didn’t get the best in town (mine was at a train station), but this to me was sausage in a ketchup curry sauce. Not that special but “THE” thing to have when you visit, or so I was convinced….

When I got in that night I was happy to see a text from a friend…

Courtney was engaged. Yay!

But back to travels…

Well, I definitely miss my host family-they were so sweet to take me in–and sleeping on the bottom bunk wasn’t bad at all! Look at the sweet picture they girls (Isabella and Eloise) drew me before I left (below). In return I painted their toenails and nails bright pink.

It has a seahorse because that was the print on my shorts that I slept in 😉 So observant they are!

So I am not even a week in on my trip and I ALMOST had my first near break down.

Imagine this: Sick, tired, running a fever, thought it was going to be colder (like the day before) throw on a sweater, a (heavy, mind you) pack on your back, a full backpack on your front and a crowded train station. No where to be found is an empty locker to store items a few hours. Fever started breaking, I was starving and all this crap was on my back and I can’t get my sweater off fast enough. I wanted to cry. Fortunately, I was in public and would look stupid. Went to the counter, gentleman informed me one more stop (4 away from my station that I NEEDED to leave from) would have lockers. Indeed they did after the long hunt and mile walk. I walked around, snapped more photos, got some water and grub, then off to Prague I went. I have never slept so hard on a train in all my life…especially in front of 3 strangers in one of those little rooms on the train. I know I was most likely snoring or drooling. But guess what? Never going to see those people again…BUT I hope they didn’t snap pics.

Goodbye for now Berlin.

I. was. so. exhausted. already. Uh oh. Hello Prague.